DPhil in Cancer Science Programme


With its first intake confirmed for 2020, the DPhil in Cancer Science Programme provides research-based doctoral training for cancer researchers from clinical, biological, engineering, mathematics and statistics backgrounds.  Successful applicants will receive a world-leading research training experience that integrates an education initiative spanning cancer patient care, tumour biology and research impact; on- course and post-programme mentorship; and a specialised, fundamental, subject-specific training programme that is tailored to individual research needs. 

The Course

The Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre awards around 13 full-time DPhil positions in Cancer Science for researchers looking to start their academic career at one of the world’s leading research organisations.

The programme is unique and distinctive in offering integrated training across the following themes: Immunity, Infection & Inflammation; DNA Damage Response & Radiation Biology; Cancer Genetics & Epigenetics; and Cancer Big Data. It builds on Oxford’s outstanding research record in these areas, spanning both the University and Hospital Trust.

Students participating in the scheme will be offered:

  • a choice of interdisciplinary cutting-edge cancer research projects (see the previous 2020 Intake Project Book for examples of the type of projects offered).
  • the ability to gain a working in-depth knowledge of the fundamentals of cancer biology and cancer patient care through advanced level seminars.
  • a world-renowned research environment that encourages the student’s originality and creativity in their research.
  • opportunities to develop skills in making and testing hypotheses, in developing new theories, and in planning and conducting experiments.
  • an environment in which to develop skills in written work, oral presentation and publishing the results of their research in high-profile scientific journals, through constructive feedback of written work and oral presentations.

At the end of the course, programme students will:

  • have gained a thorough knowledge of the basic principles of cancer research including the relevant literature and a comprehensive understanding of scientific methods and techniques applicable to their own research.
  • be able to demonstrate originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in their field.
  • have the ability to critically evaluate current research and research techniques and methodologies.
  • be able to act autonomously in the planning and implementation of research.
  • be prepared for career in cancer research.

The scheme caters to researchers form a wide range of backgrounds and there are three types of application welcomed are described below.

  • Application Type 1 – Clinical Trainees. Qualified doctors at all stages of training (from foundation to higher specialist training).
  • Application Type 2 – Medical Undergraduates. Medical students who are currently undertaking a primary medical qualification (MBBS, MBChB or equivalent). At entry, we will be looking for evidence of completion of at least the first two years of a primary medical qualification and achievement at the level of an upper-second or first-class honours degrees (or iBSc).
  • Application Type 3 – Non-Clinical/Fundamental Scientists. Science graduates that hold (or be predicted to achieve) the equivalent of a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a biological, medical, chemical, mathematical or physical science background, as appropriate for the projects offered.

All offered places are fully funded at the home rate. This includes salary/stipend, University and College fees, and a research consumables budget of £13k p.a.. Salary and stipend provisions are summarised below:

  • Track 1 – 3 years of salary at Grade E63 or E64 Clinical Researcher
  • Track 2 – 3 years of stipend at the rate of £19,000 per annum.
  • Track 3 – 4 years of stipend at the rate of £19,000 per annum.

Applications from international candidates will be accepted, however funding at the home level is only available for this programme and therefore international applicants would need to either source further funding or support themselves financially for the remaining fees. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

How to Apply

The process for allocating studentships and fellowships for the 2021 intake is currently underway. Applications for the 2020/2021 intake will be open by the last week of September 2020, we will confirm applications are open on this page. The timelines for this process is below.

DPhil in Cancer Science Timeline for 2021 Intake 2020/21
July 15th – Open for applications from supervisors for projects
September 4th – Deadline for Project Submissions
Last week in September – Project Book released and student applicants able to open an application
January 11th – Close to student applicants
19th – Interveiw invitations
w/c 25th (estimate) – Interviews
February Award announcements

Interviews for the top-ranked applications will be held in February, with the results being announced shortly afterwards. All applicants will be judged on the following;

  • Evidence of a prior interest in the area of research proposed is likely to advantage your application.
  • Prior publications are not required, but research experience and a track record demonstrating an interest in research may be an advantage.
  • It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
  • Commitment to and passion for a career in cancer research.
  • Reasoning ability and academic curiosity.

If you are thinking of applying to the scheme, useful advice can be found here. If you have any further questions about the programme or the application, please email cancercentre@oncology.ox.ac.uk.

Supervisors from across Oxford University and Oxford University Hospital Foundation Trust interested in submitting projects for inclusion before the September 4th 2020 deadline should contact cancercentre@oncology.ox.ac.uk for an application form and guidance.

Open Day 2020/2021

We are pleased to announce registration is now open for our virtual open day for our DPhil studentships for 2021, on Friday 16th October 10:00 to 12:00.

As this year’s event is virtual, we have taken the decision to pre-record speaker podcasts which will be available here before the event. These podcasts will provide details of the application process, and will be summarised in the open day, where you will have an opportunity to ask any questions you have of the team.

We encourage all attendees to listen to the podcasts ahead of the event when they are available, as this will allow you to prep for questions you may want to ask.  They will be displayed here approximately a week before the event. We will inform those who have registered for the event when the podcasts are available with instructions as to how you can listen.

Please sign up here if you would like to attend the open day event.

DPhil Project Book

The 2021 Project Book, with details of the projects available for prospective DPhil students, will be released by the last week in September 2020 when submissions are open.

Examples Project Books from previous admission rounds are available below